Daniel and Andrew talk about different ways of relating to the ancestors. Especially getting into how to help the ancestors evolve and make our lives better in the process. They also get into their relatinoships to the orisha and ways of thinking about practicing a tradition that you were not born into.
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ANDREW: Welcome to the Hermit’s Lamp podcast. I’m hanging out today with Daniel Foor, and Daniel is a Ifá priest and has done all sorts of wonderful work along the lines of ancestral healing. And Ancestral Medicine is the name of the book that he has out. And he and I have a lot of similarities in practices and the kinds of things we’re interested in, so, you know, lots of people have been suggesting I have him on for a while, and, and well, today’s the day! So, welcome, Daniel! Thanks for being here!
DANIEL: Thanks so much. It’s good to be here.
ANDREW: There are people who might not know who you are. Who are you? What are you about?
DANIEL: Yeah, well, I … to locate myself a bit, I’m a 40-year-old, white, cis-gendered American living in western North Carolina. From Ohio, originally, but traveled a good amount, but live in the States, and have a PhD in psychology. I’m a licensed therapist, so I have a background in mental health.
But mostly I’m a ritualist, and I’ve been training with different kinds of teachers and traditions for over 20 years now, and started out with more shamanic pagan background with magical things, and migrated into involvement with Islam, and Sufism, Buddhist practice, and then circled back to involvement with indigenous systems and earth-honoring traditions. And in the last decade have been immersed in west African Ifá practice, lineages in the Americas and also in west Africa, and so I’m an initiate of Ifa, Obatala, and Oshun, and Egungun priesthood, [inaudible], and in the lineage of Oluwo Falolu Adesanya Awoyade, Ode Remo, in Ogun State. So I’ve been four times to Nigeria, and that’s one influence on my practice.
But mostly I teach and guide non-dogmatic, inclusive, animist ancestor-focused ritual practice. The last two years or so I have shifted to training others, which has been really satisfying after years of doing more public-facing ritual, I’m now … I do some of that but mostly I’m training other people in how to guide the work. And I have developed a specialization in repair work with blood lineage ancestors. But I also operate from a broader animist or earth-honoring framework that isn’t limited to just that. So. And I’m a dad, I’m a, you know, married, and love the earth here, and live in the American South, which is kind of strange, but also okay. Yeah.
ANDREW: Mm-hmm. That’s awesome.
ANDREW: So, I mean, I guess, my first question for you is, when did you start feeling the ancestral stuff calling you?
DANIEL: Well, my own lineages are German, English, Irish, early settler colonialist to North America, and so I didn’t inherit any religious or spiritual framework or culture that was of value to me in any conscious way as a young person. And so, my first teachers in shamanic practice, Bekki and Crow with the Church of Earth Healing, in the late 90s, nudged me to get to know my ancestors ritually. And it was really impactful, actually. I was surprised by it. I’d never thought about them really before that. And I ended up assisting with an older ancestral guide or teacher, my father’s father who had taken his own life, and just showing up for that work, which was powerful.
And it was a catalyst for me to research, do a lot of depth genealogy research about my own family history, and that dovetailed in with my training as a therapist, so I was in a period of connecting a lot of dots and valuing my own heritage, and, in a grounding way … Not in like some awkward, go white people way, but in a way that helped me to reclaim what is beautiful about European, you know, northern western European cultures, and … including earlier pre-Roman, pre-Christian magics and lineages. And so, I ran with that ritually. And have guided 120 maybe, multi-day, ancestor healing intensives since 2005 in that work, so I spent about six or seven years getting grounded with all of it myself. Then started to help other people with it. And it just organically developed as a specialization. And I tend to be a little obsessive about a thing, when I’m into it. I’ll do that like crazy, until it’s … yeah.
ANDREW: Yeah, I think … I mean, I think it’s interesting how … Cause I do a lot of ancestral work as well, you know …
ANDREW: I do ancestral divination work and, you know, ancestral sort of healing and lineage healing and so on.
ANDREW: You know, I’ve been teaching it with my friend Carrie, we have this, we developed this system of people working with charm casting as a tool …
ANDREW: To get into that work. And, you know, we’ve been traveling around and teaching it everywhere. We were in China last year teaching it, and stuff like that, with people …
ANDREW: You know, I think that the thing that sort of stands out in your story, that I think stands out everywhere, is so often, like the last little bit, you know, the last few generations, it’s kind of wonky, or like there’s not a lot, there’s not a lot of connection or living connection. Even, you know, it wasn’t until last year that I found out that my grandmother read tea leaves when she was alive …
ANDREW: And she’s been gone for like 12 years, and it just never came up before. She never talked about it, and my mom just never brought it up. Not for any particular reason but it just, it just was never a thing. Even though that’s the same grandmother who bought me a tarot deck when I was like 13, long ago.
DANIEL: Right. Of course she did.
ANDREW: But I would have talked about it, right? But how … Often when you kind of go back, you know, a few generations or somewhere a bit deeper, you know, there are these sort of more … evolved isn’t the word that I super like, but you know, like, more grounded, more helpful, you know, ancestors with a, with a sort of more capacity to be really guides and assist you in this process, right?
DANIEL: Yeah, often. It … Where those cut-offs happen varies so widely from one demographic or even one individual to another, and I know in a lot of my own lineages, it’s been over 1,000 years since anyone during life had a culturally reinforced and supported framework for honoring the ancestors. And so the older ones, the ones even before that, are quite available. So it’s not … I mean I could … reinforce some kind of orphan victim culturally-damaged white person narrative, but it’s not that sexy or useful, and so at a certain point, you’re just like, well, you pick up the pieces where they’re at, and get the fire going again.
DANIEL: And the older ancestors are happy to do that. And so even if someone comes from a really recently and before that culturally fragmented set of lineages, the ancestors are still available, the older ones, and the main repair orientation or practice that I encourage people to try on at first is to partner with those older ancestors and with them, assist any of the dead who are not yet well, any of the ones between those older ones and the present, who are not yet really well-seated, really vibrant. Help them to become well-seated ancestors. So the dead change. It’s very important for us living folks to not fix them in some static condition.
DANIEL: Just cause people were a pain in the ass or really, you know, culturally in the weeds during life doesn’t mean they’re doomed to that condition forever. They can really change and become, not only, like, not ghosty, but they can become dynamic, engaged, useful allies for cultural healing work in the present.
ANDREW: Yeah, I think it’s, you know, it’s a misconception that a lot of people have that they automatically change on crossing over.
DANIEL: Oh, sure, yeah, that’s different. (laughing)
ANDREW: And then the other side of that is, you know, they can change, but it might take a bunch of work, even if they did change, right?
DANIEL: Yeah, totally. Yeah, both, both are true. Yeah. The idea that just dying makes you wise and loving and kind is really hazardous actually, as a world view. So.
DANIEL: Cause it’ll lead to a view of … I’ve seen it at times in pagan circles as well, where it’s “Oh, the ancestors, ancestors are good, let’s invoke them all. Okay, here are all the names of my ancestors, and the pictures, and let me light a candle and strongly invoke all of them.”
DANIEL: Well, I hope your invocation doesn’t work.
DANIEL: Because if it does, you’re going to get a mixed bag! Cause your people are, you know, if they’re well, awesome, but if they’re not yet well, and your invocation works, then what you have is some not yet well ghosty energy in your space.
ANDREW: For sure, right? And some of those spirits can be pretty tumultuous, you know, if they’re …
DANIEL: Oh, no doubt. Yeah.
ANDREW: [crosstalking 09:53] here. I have one grandfather that I continue to work with who, sort of, work on, let’s put it [laughing].
ANDREW: It’s been a long time and they’re still not ready to be, you know, front and center in anything, cause they just, so caught up in so much deep, deep trauma in their own life and in their generations before them, and, you know.
DANIEL: One of, one of the things that I don’t, I won’t say it’s unique to how I approach it, but it’s emphasized in how I approach ancestor work, which isn’t across the board, is I take a very lineage-based approach. Like I don’t even really encourage, necessarily, relating with individual ancestors that much.
DANIEL: So in the case of someone, not to speak to your specific case necessarily, but let’s say someone’s grandmother is really quite entrenched in the unwell ghosty range of wellness. My strategy is to make sure that her mother and her mother and her mother and her mother and the lineage of women before them on back through time to the ancient weird witchy deity-like grandmothers, that that whole lineage is deeply well, and the repair happens from the older ones toward the present. And so, once you have the parent of the one who is quite troubled in a deeply well condition, and the whole lineage before them deeply well, as a group energy, asking them to intervene to address the rowdy ghosty grandparent tends to be … It can … Well, it can be more effective, simply because there’s a re-anchoring of the rogue individuality in a bigger system, in a collective energy.
DANIEL: And there’s a respect for seniority or hierarchy, by having that person’s elders be the ones to round them up.
DANIEL: So, so that’s. I shared that because in the West, generally, I find that people tend to conceive of ancestor reverence primarily as a relating of one individual to another individual, and, and some of the lineage or group level aspects of it can get lost, or they’re not as emphasized. And so I find that’s an important nuance to include, and then another is, and we’ve spoken to it, is just the way in which one’s ancestors are not at all just the remembered dead, the ones, the recent ones, but they include … The vast majority of them are living before remembered names. And that’s helpful for people who are like, my family are abusive trolls. I’m like, okay, I believe you, but I think what you mean to say is all the generations you know about, which is probably not more than two or three.
DANIEL: And so, it’s like, you’re at the ocean, at a windy, cloudy day, and you’re saying, “Oh, the ocean is tumultuous,” well, I believe it is, right there at the beach. But the ocean’s a big place, yeah. So expanding our frame for who we mean when we say ancestor is gonna be helpful too.
ANDREW: Mm-hmm. For sure. Yeah, and there’s lots of times when, you know, we’ll make offerings or do work with all of those ancestors, right? With the Egun, right, with everybody? Right?
ANDREW: You know? And in those ways and so on, right? Yeah, yeah, I mean it’s interesting how … It’d really be interesting to make sure that you’re looking at those things. And some of my, some of my best ancestral allies have been gone, you know, three, four hundred years, right?
DANIEL: For sure.
ANDREW: Or longer.
DANIEL: Yeah, totally, yeah.
ANDREW: They arrive, and they’re just like, “Yes! You’re the beacon of light amongst all of these things, and let’s radiate that out to everybody afterwards and anchor further and deeper,” right?
DANIEL: Yeah. For sure.
ANDREW: Mm-hmm. So, when you’re doing work with people, are you mostly focused on … you know, because a lot of people come to ancestor work because they want to get messages and receive stuff and do …
ANDREW: …[inaudible at 13:59] kind of stuff, right? I mean, I think that that can be fruitful, too, I enjoy that kind of work as well, but that’s not really what we’re talking about here either, right? I mean not explicitly, right?
DANIEL: Yeah. If we say like, what’s the point? It can … There are a lot of different motivations that can drive someone to want to engage their ancestors. The most common one is, “I’m suffering, will this help?”
DANIEL: That’s legit. Sometimes it will help indirectly. Sometimes it will help directly because the source of the suffering is unmetabolized intergenerational trouble that’s directly connected to ancestral interference, and so sometimes it, you know, it can help in different ways.
Another motivator for the work is seeking life guidance, cause the ancestors have insight into our unique destiny, and can help us to move into closer alignment with that, you know, our unique instructions or soul level work in the world.
As you know, in Yoruba culture, we sometimes talk about the world as the marketplace and Orun or the spirit world as home, and, and so if you forget your shopping list, working with the ancestors can be like, “Let us show you, you said this, this, this, and this,” and be like, “Oh, yeah, okay, thanks,” and so that’s helpful to not waste our lives.
And ancestors can be great for being a resource to parents or supporters in family, like they’re especially good with all the family sphere, the domestic sphere, like being a responsible family human. And they’re also good allies for cultural healing. A lot of the racism and colonialism and sexism and other kinds of cultural toxicity and garbage and bad capitalism that we’re stewed in and trying to get out from underneath and help transform … Those are ancestor, those are troubles created by the ancestors. Like, they’re implicated in the trouble. And so they have, appropriately, a hand in resolving the trouble as well.
And so they’re great allies, by whatever form, activism, cultural change, all that. And so I really think that working closely with one’s ancestors helps cultural change-makers to up their game, so to speak. So that’s another motivation.
And this is, I guess it’s related to the one about destiny, but, inspired a bit from the Yoruba frameworks. The collective energy or wisdom of the ancestors is associated strongly with the Earth. Like the onile, the earth is like the calabash that holds the souls of the dead. And because the Earth is associated with accountability and, you know, moral authority, and is the witness through of all interactions, in that way also the ancestors carry that same quality of accountability.
DANIEL: And I think whether or not people can consciously own it, some part of us craves accountability. Like we want to be seen and checked when needed.
DANIEL: There’s something really like … our daughter almost made it to the top of the steps. Like, the door was open the other day. She’s nine months old. But we caught her. It was good. It was way better than had we not held her in that moment.
DANIEL: And there’s a way in which that kind of love and connectivity is like, “Oh, I’m not alone in the universe.”
DANIEL: If I crawl to the top of the steps, someone will pick me up. So we want that, and the ancestors bring that, as well, when we live with them.
ANDREW: I think it’s a, I think it’s a thing that, especially, you know, in my experience, people, in Western culture, struggle with too, right? This sort of willingness to acknowledge an authority or an awareness or a position that’s sort of above them in a way that they can allow in to say, “You know what, actually, we do know what’s better for you in this moment.”
DANIEL: [laughing] Oh, yeah, it’s-
ANDREW: You what, my friends, you know, going down that road has nothing to do with your destiny, or what have you, right?
DANIEL: Oh, yeah! [laughing]
ANDREW: Here’s your fault in this mess that you’re trying to put on this other person, right?
DANIEL: Oh, yeah, no, people, look, I’m a teacher, also, and so often it’s great and fine, and sometimes people are idealizing in awkward ways, and like, oh, don’t do that, don’t do that. But, but just whatever, fine, it’s fine, it tends to burn out and even out. And also sometimes people are really just not okay with anything resembling a power differential or a student teacher relationship.
DANIEL: And it’s … It’s tiring a little, as a teacher. Because there is a difference between telling someone just what to do in an authoritative way, and also saying, like, “Well, do you want to learn a thing? Because I know this skill. Like, what do you … do you want to tell me how it goes, cause … ?” So, so yeah, it is … I think it’s a function of power so often being abused, that people understandably have mistrust.
DANIEL: Yeah. So I have compassion for it, and also the piece around hierarchy and authority is really, is challenging. In the coming months, some dear friends are going to Nigeria to do initiations and I was talking to them last night, and I was like, in the nicest possible way, “Really, your main job as the initiate is to obey.”
DANIEL: Just to, like, the ritual is done to you, nobody really cares what you think about it. And it’s totally fine.
ANDREW: Stand here, stand there, [crosstalking 19:59].
DANIEL: Right! Yeah, totally, sit down, drink it, sit, eat it, say thank you. Like …
DANIEL: Yeah. Like you’re the thing being consecrated. Your input is not needed.
DANIEL: Nothing personal. Next time you go back, then you can have an opinion.
ANDREW: Yeah. And even then–
DANIEL: And even then, so you get one small vote. [laughing] Yeah.
ANDREW: No, for sure. Yeah, let’s see what people who … I mean come for readings of all kinds, but you know, people who approach, you know, getting dillogun readings and stuff like that, and you know, the Orishas come through, and they’re like, “Oh, you know what? Don’t drink this year, don’t, you know, whatever. Don’t get tattooed. Don’t, you know, no, no red beans for you.” They’re like, “Well, what do you mean? I don’t understand.” It’s like, “Well…” [crosstalking 20:52]
DANIEL: Obey! [laughing]
ANDREW: What is the understanding? I mean, in a lot of that situation … in some of those situations, the understanding is more obvious, right?
ANDREW: I had a conversation with a person who’d say, “Well, it seems like you kind of have this kind of challenge, and this is kind of the thing that might counter that,” and they’re like, “Okay, yeah, maybe.” But other times it’s just energetic or on other levels that it’s just like, you know, it’s kind of the … It’s an equivalent of saying “Hey, carry this citrine with you for the next year, it’s going to help your energy,” but it’s in a different structure that people don’t relate to in the same way, right?
DANIEL: For sure, yeah.
ANDREW: And then they’re like, “But, but, I don’t want to be told what to do!” I’m like, “What else are you gonna do?”
DANIEL: You just paid me to do that.
ANDREW: Yeah, you asked, right?
ANDREW: You didn’t have to, I wouldn’t worry about it …
DANIEL: But some part of us does, some part of us really, I think wants to be told what to do. And that could go awry, and I’m not saying it’s an entirely healthy impulse, but there’s something about accountability and structure and community and limits, that’s actually really intimate.
DANIEL: And if you can’t hear and accept “no,” your “yes” is meaningless.
DANIEL: And so there’s something that’s precious and sweet about protocol and tradition and about structure.
ANDREW: I also think that a lot of people don’t really … Faith is a really complicated and difficult thing for a lot of people too, you know?
ANDREW: And especially when entering a new tradition, you know? And, and I think that part of what we’re talking about here is also a matter of faith, right? What is your faith in the ancestors or the Orisha or whatever, and how, how do you sustain that faith through being deeply challenged by all that stuff?
DANIEL: Yeah, and for me, look, I was involved with different Orisha teachers in the States, American, for the most part, and … it didn’t work out that well, for the most part. I mean, complicated. But I … I felt like there was a lot of restrictive and unhealthy and kind of confused energy around it. And I had an opportunity to go to Nigeria to reset some of the initiation-like things that had happened here, so I took a risk on it, and I’m like, “Well, this is either gonna be like the final straw, or some breakthrough,” like, “let’s pray for the latter.” And I saw kind of a non-dogmatic group community like, in my Ifá initiation, there were men aged like 80 to five, holding space. Like, and 20, 30 people there. And people were teasing each other, playing, and having a good time. Like the people were well human beings, they seemed happy. And so that relaxed, teasing heart aware energy. I’m like, “Oh, good, this is what I was looking for.” And it helped … For me, it helped me to trust, and just not fight the system. I’m like, “Just tell me what to do.” Just okay, “eat the pig dung,” okay, “Leave me a bite,” or whatever. Whatever it is. Just tell me what to do. So.
DANIEL: Yeah, it’s great.
ANDREW: I used to, you know, get some people who would bring their, you know, like, elderly, Cuban elders to the store. You know? And pick up stuff.
ANDREW: You know, they’re here in Toronto to do a thing, and they’d bring this person to the store, right? And you know my Spanish is not great [laughing] and their English was not great, and we’d like, know some like, Yoruban words in common or whatever. And you would see how sweet and genuine and nice they were. And then they’d notice that like, you know, I’ve got plants growing at the front of the store for working with religion, and they’d be like, “oh, alamo,” I’d be like, “yeah, yeah,” and we’d have this like sort of pidgin conversation and a bunch of other things, and mostly what it would be is our hearts being opened, all this sharing of our love of this religion and these spirits …
ANDREW: And the continuity of that. And it was such a beautiful and uplifting experience, even though there wasn’t a lot of words that were associated with it. There was just so much communication happening at other levels, and you could, you know, I could feel my Shango just being happy about it, you know, be like whoever there, too, just being happy about it, and so on. You know? It’s so uplifting in that way, right? But …
DANIEL: That’s good. It’s one of the things in, you know, we had mentioned in our previous chat about my talk on practicing the traditions of other people’s ancestors. And–
DANIEL: I respect it a lot about the necessary and important dialogues around cultural appropriation, and especially, not only, but especially around respecting different Native North American or First Nations, as you say, traditions, and being mindful of what the conditions of involvement, if that’s open, to non-Native people are, etc., and what’s important to understand is those same parameters are not universal, and how cultures are shared and understood from one part of the world to another really vary.
And Yoruba culture, for example, is generally an open system. Yoruba people in my experience, in Yorubaland, have never had anyone feel off about me being there and training in Orisha, except for the Christians, who were like, “Why don’t you want Jesu?” I’m like, “We have Jesu where I’m at,” it’s like, “It’s fine, like, go Jesu!” but it’s not why I’m here. And one of the things that is important though, is, it’s family, like you’re stepping into a family, a spiritual family. It’s not like a “Hey bro, thanks for the culture, now I’m gonna go back and set up shop, I got what I need.” There’s a … And so when your teachers hit you up for money, it’s family. That’s what like, you can’t be part of a family and have a bunch of stuff, and then other people don’t have something, and you don’t share it.
DANIEL: And so it’s … It’s not like you’re getting exploited. I mean, that also happens. But just the ethic of sharing and supporting one another. If people don’t want that, then they might not want to get involved. because most indigenous systems that I know of that are open to people not of that blood ancestry hold things in a family-oriented way. There’s intimacy with that, but there’s also connectivity, reciprocity, accountability. Yeah.
ANDREW: And, you know, so, you know, my immediate family where I was initiated lives in the Detroit area, and my, you know, my elders are in Miami, you know, and like, but like, especially when the Detroit folks are doing work, you know, especially bigger things like making priests, you know, I always show up, like, you know, it’s like you, when they’re doing the work, and you’re like, “Oh, it’s so inconvenient for me to take four or five days off and go down there and help out, right?” And it’s like, yeah, it’s inconvenient, and you know, it’s time off work, and it’s whatever, but it’s what those people did for me, right? And it’s what allows all of that to continue, and it’s a chance to, you know, to also sustain those connections, and you know, sing together, and sit and joke together, and, you know, complain about handling the … cleaning up after the animals together, and whatever, it’s just part of it, right? Like …
ANDREW: And in the absence of being willing to engage that community element of it, right? It’s pretty … If you don’t have the community element in one way or another, especially in the Orisha tradition, you don’t really have much of anything, you know?
DANIEL: It’s true, with the tradition, it in my experience is very communal, and there are a lot of ritual domains of activity you just can’t pull off solo.
DANIEL: And it’s just that, you know, it’s a lot of hard work, it’s heavy lifting. And for people who have worked with psychoactives, there’s a certain kind of feeling among the group after a long, successful, like all night acid trip, when the sun’s coming up, you’re sort of like, “Oh, we’ve just gone through something together.”
DANIEL: And, and, minus the LSD, there can be a sense after a multi-day ritual of a strong sense of magic and beauty and intimacy that’s shared through all the effort and all the devotion …
DANIEL: That it takes to keep old lineages of practice alive.
ANDREW: For sure. And I think it’s, I mean, one of the other points that I think was super important … It’s been a while since I listened to that talk and we’ll link to it in the show notes, cause it was a good talk. Folks should go back and listen to it. You know, is also the fact that these are living traditions, right? They have continuity.
ANDREW: And, you know, but there’s a big difference between, hey, we’re gonna call up some Greek deities and see what happens, you know, and, like, or you know, see what happens sounds dismissive, I don’t mean it in that way. And you know, there’s nobody, there’s no continuity to ancient Greece, in that particular way, versus there are people who’ve been practicing these traditions from person to person to person, all the way through until now, and you can actually go and ask those people and they can answer you as to what’s done and how it’s done and why it’s done.
DANIEL: Yeah. No, it’s true. People don’t … If they don’t know something, would be in the habit of divining on it, but I wouldn’t want someone to, like, not go to flight school and then divine on how to fly the plane. [crosstalking] Yeah.
ANDREW: Yeah. There’s that great proverb, which I’m sure you know, which is “Don’t ask what you already know,” right?
ANDREW: And I think that there’s a sort of choleric glory to that which is, you know, there are things you just shouldn’t ask, cause you should already know them, right?
ANDREW: You don’t need to ask if we do this thing because we know we don’t. You know?
ANDREW: We know that Oshun won’t take this as an offering. We know that we don’t do this kind of thing. We know that, like, you know, you don’t ask if you could rob a bank cause the answer’s already no. You know?
DANIEL: Right. And there’s a beautiful essay [inaudible 31:07] by Ologo Magiev [31:09], a child being asked to divine, and their parents died young and so they didn’t get the information. And so they invoke their ancestors, and bring a lot of humility, and wing it, and it turns out fine. And, and I think there’s also this kind of an implicit message, “And don’t do that again. Don’t pull that card too many times.”
DANIEL: [laughing] Then go train!
ANDREW: For sure, right?
DANIEL: So, it’s both. The deities have kindness, and benevolence, and also, careful!
ANDREW: Yeah. And, you know, I was traveling, and I got a call that a friend of mine was like at death’s door in the hospital, basically, right? And, you know, and I was just literally at a rest stop getting, gassing up the car when I checked my phone in the middle of New York State, right?
ANDREW: And I was just like, all right. And so I went and, you know, kind of looked around for some stuff, and it’s like, there’s nothing, like I can’t, there’s nothing I could really sort of put together here, so I just collected a bunch of white flowers and, you know, it’s really hilly, right, so I just took them to a spot that I thought was appropriate for Obatala …
ANDREW: And I was like, Obatala, this is all I have today. I’m here, it’s this situation, and I need you to accept these and intercede in the situation. And you can get away with that. But that’s not practicing the tradition. And that’s not gonna, as you say, it’s not gonna fly all the time, right?
ANDREW: When you’re at home, you can do all sorts of other things, you have your shrines or your ancestors or wherever you’re working with, right? They will accept these things, cause they do understand circumstance and they’re not tyrannical about it, right? They just say, you don’t want that to be your way of practicing forever.
DANIEL: I spent years like, I don’t know, not quite 20 years, not involved in a really dedicated way in one set tradition. I was training with different traditions for a period of time, and would definitely learn stuff, and would develop my own ashe [33:20] or whatever, but I wasn’t like embracing one fully, as an operating system.
DANIEL: But I learned that it’s possible to do it that way. That was actually really helpful to me. That it’s possible to go deep with one’s own ancestors, to go deep with the spirits of the land, where you’re at.
DANIEL: And to get to know them, and to get clarity about your own destiny and to just constellate in the different powers and forces and spirits that are gonna help you to do that. And I also … that there’s loneliness in going it solo, as well. There’s like a freedom and a loneliness, both. And it drove me eventually to … You know, I spent almost ten years involved in Orisha practice and Yoruba ways before I decided to initiate. And it’s like a long slow dating process. It wasn’t a lot of charisma. It was like, oh, you’re the last one left standing, and …
DANIEL: We have a ton of compatibility, why are we not doing this? And I go, okay, I guess we’re gonna do this. So we just had the high match on the dating, you know, religious dating profile website. So I’m like, oh, maybe we should try this. And, and I haven’t regretted it at all. It’s very … It’s been a relief. The sense for me is of being held in a bigger frame. And it’s not really … It’s not what I teach publicly, I’m not publicly offering services in that way, even though there are certain ones I could, in integrity.
I’m still in training, I’m still trying to learn Yoruba language, and especially with a west African orientation of practice it’s such an aural language-based tradition, especially Ifá practice in particular, so I’m trying to hold a … I think if you’re not ancestrally of a tradition, the standards are even a bit higher for you to get it right, which I think is fair and understandable. Especially with the cultural climate of racism in the west and all that, for European ancestor people to be doing west African Ifa, you need to not look like a fool doing it, and so part of that looks like studying the language and really, you know, taking to heart the training.
DANIEL: But, it’s possible to go really deep without stepping into a tradition. And there are a lot of ritual advantages to having a system to work from, as well. So I appreciate both sides of that. Yeah.
ANDREW: Yeah, for sure. I think you can get there … I think you can accomplish the same ends either way, right?
DANIEL: Yeah, yeah.
ANDREW: I think that where it gets, where it gets touchy is where you’re solely working independently, but within the set of spirits that has a living tradition. If you’re only working independently and devoid of traditional teaching, you know, that’s where it starts to become a question for me of what …
DANIEL: Well, yeah, no, if the main powers you’re working with are the Orisha, it’s like, well, you’ve got to, here’s the front door. You can try crawling in the window, but it’s going to go badly, so.
DANIEL: Yeah. But if you’re just working with the weird old land gods and your own ancestors, you can get away with it. yeah.
ANDREW: For sure.
DANIEL: Yeah, for sure.
ANDREW: Yeah. I also like the weird old land gods. You know? There’s this beautiful ravine, you know, about a two-minute walk from the shop, [crosstalking 36:45] in Toronto. It runs through and you know, under there, there’s sort of part of a buried river, that was once upon a time up on the surface, and all sorts of stuff, and there’s wonderful and magical energies that are there, and really fascinating things have happened in that space over time. You know? Like I was … I was there making a … dealing with something and helping somebody, and making an offering essentially to the spirit of that place in the snow, right? And then when I came out of sort of the wood part back onto the path, all of these moths emerged, these white moths. And I’m like, there’s snow on the ground, and it’s snowing right now, what is going on with these things? And I’m like, all right, I’ll take it. Big old yes from the spirits of this place on that thing, you know?
ANDREW: So I mean yeah, there’s some amazing stuff that can happen in those ways, for sure.
DANIEL: Nice. Yeah.
ANDREW: So, I mean, first thing is, I’m going to ask you now if people should, if they’re listening to this, and they want to think about starting a, you know, where they should start? And I know that one of the answers is definitely, they should go read your book, cause your book is great.
ANDREW: But like, for the context of our conversation today, where would you kind of point people? Where, where do you point people [inaudible 38:02]?
DANIEL: I’m not a very trusting person, really. So, if I were to listen to this conversation, and I didn’t know that I’m a good person, I would go to my website, which is ancestralmedicine.org. Root around there, see what the vibe is, and there are other talks, or whatever, and see if you, you know, get an instinctual, this guy’s not crazy vibe from where I’m coming from, and if you’re drawn to the ancestral work, there are three main ways to engage.
One is to connect with one of the practitioners in the directory there. And there are 30 some people at this point who are trained in the work. Men, women, all different genders of people [38:43–not sure I’ve got his exact words here], ancestrally diverse people, lots of different opportunities for low income sessions, sessions in seven languages, so, opportunities to connect with people directly for session work. That’s the most efficient way. Another is that I offer an online course that starts in December, that’s thorough, and it maps along the heart of the book, chapters 5 through 9, which is lineage repair work, and there’s a lot of support throughout that course, so that’s an option, and I’ll also be offering a course through the Shift network in the fall.
And then, a third way is the in-person trainings. And the last one I’m going to guide probably in North America will be in just over a week in Ottawa, the 24th to the 26th, and there’s a talk on August 22, next Wednesday, in Ottawa as well, and all the info on that is on my site, and additionally, to that, there are trainings in maybe ten cities and also coming up in Australia and Mexico and maybe Russia and Canada and Victoria, so. And those are done by students who I trust to guide the work. So in person work, online course, or sessions, are, in addition to the book, the three main ways to plug in. Yeah.
DANIEL: And, and, you know, like just to say it, if you’re wary of people, which is warranted, this approach to the work doesn’t involve the practitioners or me or anybody saying, “Hey, this is what your grandmother says to you.” It’s about stepping the individual through a process of reclaiming and re-energizing their ability to connect directly with their own people. So, it’s an empowering approach in that way. It’s not somebody getting all up in the mix and channeling messages to your people. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not this approach, so. And especially if your family’s a mess, it’s useful to do ancestor work. Cause you get some space from all that, and connect with what’s beautiful and trustworthy in your own blood and bone lineages. So that’s grounding, it’s helpful, also for the cultural healing that’s needed.
ANDREW: Yes. Well and I think it can be quite liberating, you know, because we’re carrying those patterns, right?
DANIEL: Oh, yeah. So you can relate consciously or unconsciously with your people, but you don’t get to opt out of relatedness. Yeah.
ANDREW: Exactly, right? And if we can tidy those up and take some of that burden off of us or free ourselves from that, right? Then we get to show up much differently in that way, right?
DANIEL: Yeah. I think the masquerades in Yoruba culture, Egungun, and it’s a blessing when they come around, but it’s also a lot of people try not to be touched by them. And so there’s … It conveys something about the ancestors, like, they’re dangerous to avoid and they’re dangerous to have around.
DANIEL: But, whatever, it’s just like living humans. [laughing]
ANDREW: For sure. People are challenged on both sides of the veil, right?
DANIEL: [laughing] Yeah, exactly.
ANDREW: For sure.
DANIEL: So, good.
ANDREW: Well, thank you so much for making time today, Daniel. It’s been great to hang out and chat with you.
DANIEL: For sure, thanks, Andrew, thanks for your service, here. Blessings on everything you’re up to.
ANDREW: Thank you.
DANIEL: Yeah. Good.